Garden of Lights @ Emperors Palace review, Kempton Park (JHB East)

This is a bit of a different review, because it pertains only to the Festive Season.
Even so, it is a seriously worthwhile one to check out with the kids these holidays - guaranteed to be a fun evening out for all.

Date last visited

December 2011

Location and Setting


Emperors Palace Hotel and Casino, 64 Jones Road, Kempton Park, Johannesburg.
You can find directions and a map on the Emperors Casino website here.

For the kids...

As Christmas approaches, kids just love all the lights and decorations that go up to celebrate the season.
Driving around at night, it is great to see South Africans getting into the spirit by lighting up their houses and gardens... sometimes in the extreme!

Emperors Palace cottoned onto this idea in a huge way in the past, and thankfully they have done it again this year - we heard a lot about the Garden of Lights from friends, so we had to check it out for ourselves.
Don't be put off if the queue is long - it moves quickly and the wait is well worthwhile.

Once you are inside (entrance is free, donations are welcome and go to charity), you are greeted by a fairytale night garden filled with thousands of coloured lights, reindeers, elves, christmas trees and even a host of interesting folk - the kids can have their photos taken with Santa, Cinderella or Captain Hook, and even sit down for a tea party with Alice and the Mad Hatter :)

The sound of familiar Christmas songs and carols also fills the air as you walk along the garden path, something which just adds to the atmosphere of the place.

Although Emperors Palace certainly has enough in terms of food and drink when everyone gets hungry, the Garden of Lights itself has stalls where you can pick up eats, drinks, novelties, lights and other goodies that will have the kiddies begging you to buy :)

For the adults...

We enjoyed the lights probably as much as our little one did - even adults can appreciate good old Christmas cheer, especially when it is done as well as Emperors Palace have done it.

Make sure you take the camera along, as photo opportunities are all over the place - it feels a bit like a traditional scene from an American Christmas movie... minus the snow and the American accents :)
Speaking of photos, if you are one of those people who carries a half ton DSLR camera around your neck, then bring your tripod while you are at it - you will get some awesome long exposure night shots in the garden :)

A walk through the Garden of Lights will take at least half an hour if you take your time and enjoy it.
Once you are done exploring, you can always head into Emperors itself - there are a host of restaurants where you can sit down for a good meal, and the kids can head to the games arcade if the Garden of Lights has not depleted all of their energy reserves :)

Also, be sure to check out the amazing bronze statue at the entrance to the D'oreale Grande Hotel, which depicts a victorious Roman Emperor.
The statue, which weighs in at 8640kg, was sculpted in Arizona and is believed to be the largest, one piece horse sculpture ever created in bronze.


Anything else?

Entry is free, with donations welcome (to go to charity).
The Garden is open from 03 December 2011 - 03 January 2012, daily from 19:00 - 22:00 (weather permitting).

Final words

This is one of the must-do activities for the Festive Season, if you get the chance.
I would imagine that Emperors Palace will continue to run the Garden of Lights in years to come, because of how hugely popular it has become, but even so, get there while it is on now, just in case!

Getting in touch

Telephone:
(+27) 11 928 1000

Fax:
(+27) 11 928 1001

Email:
info@emperorspalace.com

Website:
Click here.

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Mushroom Farm Park (also Hyundai Sky Park) review, Sandton (JHB)

When last did you go shopping at Sandton City?
Did you have the kids with you...?

If it was a weekend or a public holiday (or even better, Christmas shopping like now :) , then chances are that it was pretty crazy, as the mall tends to get from about 10:00 onwards!

It is at times like this that the Mushroom Farm Park (or Hyundai Sky Park) is ideal for a welcome break, away from the madness of the mall.

Date last visited
August 2011

Location and Setting


It is fairly hard to miss the Mushroom Farm Park in Sandton - just look for the huge Hyundai helium balloon!
The Mushroom Farm Park is situated just off Rivonia Road on Daisy Street, in Sandown, Johannesburg.

Click here for a map.

For the kids...
Shopping-drained kids are greeted by a huge sandpit, containing a wide variety of colourful jungle gyms, slides, swings and other play equipment, all guaranteed to excite the little ones and keep the adults exercising as they supervise playtime :)



If it's a walk (or a run) that the kids are after, then there is more than ample space for them to scoot about and use up those energy reserves.

There is a very picturesque setting as you walk down towards the dam in the park, and as you cross the wooden footbridge, you might be forgiven for thinking you were somewhere far off in the country, and not right in the middle of Sandton!

The Hyundai helium balloon (similar to the one at Montecasino) is also sure to attract attention, wide eyes and fascination from the kiddies.
The balloon is operated by Aerial Displays in partnership with Hyundai - for more info on balloon rides click here.

For the adults...
The Mushroom Farm Park reminds me of what parks in Johannesburg used to be like when I was a kid.
Bombela have done a fantastic restoration job, after the park was used as a temporary shaft during construction of the Gautrain - it is beautifully landscaped, and it incorporates a walkway that takes you around the entire park.

For the bird watchers out there, there are also about 80 different species of birds who flock around the dam.

According to the Hyundai website, we should also soon see a coffee shop on the premises, but in the meantime, a good old picnic basket will do the trick!

Anything else?

Access to the park is controlled by security guards, and entrance is free.
The toilets are clean and well maintained - always important!

Final words

For a reprieve from the craze of Sandton shopping, the Mushroom Farm Park is high up there on my list.
The fact that the park balloon is sponsored by Hyundai, and the presence of the Radisson Blu Hotel right next door, ensure that the Park is definitely on the up and up.

Getting in touch

One of our readers got in touch with us recently and sent us this number as the primary contact for Mushroom Farm Park:

Telephone:
+27 (0) 11 784 6881

We gave them a call to confirm, and it is indeed the right number.
@Anonymous - thank you!


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Montecasino Bird Gardens review, Fourways (JHB)

"The parrot with the blue feet"...:)
Traditionally in Johannesburg, if you want to see wildlife, you head off to the JHB Zoo (which is very cool itself).
If you feel like something a little different though, why not pay a visit to the Montecasino Bird Gardens.
While you may not see quite the same variety of animals as you would at the zoo, it is a different kind of experience and well worth it, especially if you have little ones in need of a really cool bird show :)

Date last visited

June 2013

Location and Setting

Montecasino is well known in Johannesburg - it sits on the Cnr of William Nicol Drive and Montecasino Boulevard in Fourways, Johannesburg.
Once you are in Montecasino itself, simply follow the signs to the Bird Gardens.
Once you reach the huge Hyundai helium balloon (which you cannot miss), then you are just about there :)

You can get directions and a map on the Montecasino site here.
You can also find a Google map here.

The cool thing is that the Gautrain Bus network has a drop off point directly in front of the Bird Gardens entrance - super convenient.

For the kids...

The biggest kid attraction here is definitely the animal factor.
The name is deceptive though, as the Bird Gardens are home not only to birds, but to mammals, reptiles, and some other rather unusual species as well.
As you explore the park, you will spot all kinds of creatures - toucans, parrots, flamingos, storks, meerkats, snakes, tortoises, frogs, spiders and many more I'm sure, if you keep your eyes peeled closely enough!

The highlight however, has to be the "Flight of Fantasy" Bird Show.
You can catch the 40 minute show in the Tuscan Amphitheatre - click here for show times.

The show is included in your ticket price and is great fun for young and old, so make sure you catch one while you are there.
We saw the show over 2 months ago, and our 2 year old is still asking about the mascot of the show - a guy dressed up in a giant, colourful toucan outfit, whom she fondly refers to as "the parrot with the blue feet" :).

When the tummies start to rumble and grumble, it's time to make a beeline for Cafe Flamingo.
Here you can sit back and enjoy a meal and a cappuccino or something cold, while the kiddies clamber about on the jungle gym or play in the sandpit and on the swings.
Cafe Flamingo also caters for kiddies birthday parties (max. 30 people) - click here for further info.

For the adults...

Parents will love the wide variety of creatures here, and the Bird Show will definitely put smiles on all faces.
On our last visit, after the show we were allowed to go down and meet some of the bird-stars of the show (including "the parrot with the blue feet" :), and get photos taken with them.

The food at Cafe Flamingo is reasonably priced, and of good quality.
All of the meals we have had there have been great, and their offerings range from breakfasts, to tramezzinis and other coffee shop-type fare.
The place does get busy though, so either get there early for breakfast, or wait until a show is on - this tends to be a quieter period with lots of tables available.

Also try get a table close to the play area so you can keep a close eye on the little ones, while enjoying the sights and sounds of the nearby Flamingo Pond.

Anything else?

When purchasing your tickets, be sure to buy a small container of nectar to feed to the Rainbow Lorikeets - they live in one of the first enclosures as you enter the park, and they will land on your arm or shoulder and literally eat out of your hand. The kids just love it, as do the adults :)

The toilets are clean and well maintained (always a biggie!), and there is a baby-changing fold down table in the ladies toilets.

For current ticket pricing and Bird Park hours, click here.

When you have had your fill of the Bird Gardens, you can always head over to the Hyundai Helium Balloon, which carries 30 people at a time and offers breathtaking views, or why not head into Montecasino, where you get an ice cream and take a stroll over to the Piazza, with its colourful musical fountains which the kids are sure to enjoy.

Final words

The Montecasino Bird Gardens make for a fun and memorable day out, especially as we head into the beautiful summer months up here on the Highveld.
The variety of bird and other species, a wonderful bird show, and the Gautrain Bus convenience factor make it something that you will want to do over and over again.

Getting in touch

Telephone:
(+27) 11 511 1864

Fax: 
(+27) 11 511 0477 

Email: 

Website:

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Primi Piatti Fusion review, Stoneridge Shopping Centre (JHB)

I am a firm supporter of the Primi Piatti brand, mainly because every visit has been a pleasure.
Their food is consistently great and their menu offers a good variety for all.
Top it all off with their ability to keep the kids in mind, and it earns them a spot right here, on Plebs with Kids.

Date last visited


July 2011

Location and Setting

Primi Fusion
Shop 24A
Cnr Hereford & Modderfontein Rd
Stoneridge Lifestyle Centre
Modderfontein

Click here for a map - scroll down and look for "Location Map" on the right side of their page.

For the kids...

While you wait for your meal to arrive, Primi Fusion makes sure that the little ones are kept occupied.
Near the back of the restaurant you will find a kids activity area, which Primi calls "Primi Pods".
Here they can sit in front of the colourful mosaic counter, and engage in some enjoyable entertainment, in the form of pizza making and biscuit baking :)

Caregivers are present to assist the young ones, and also to facilitate the process of baking, once the kid-masterpiece-creations have been prepared :)
When the baking is all done, the kids get to try out their very own creations - super cool!

The area is visible to parents, so you can keep an eye on the kids as you enjoy your starter / drinks / coffee / whatever it is that you order :)

Primi also really scores high when it comes to the kids menu.
They offer a colourful and funky "Spaghetti and Ladders" menu, which resembles a game board.
It offers a great choice, and you will be pleasantly surprised by the pricing too.

Get a PDF version here, or a JPEG version here.

For the adults...

This one is all about the food, and in our experience, Primi always gets this very important aspect right.
Their breakfast menu offers great variety - from good old traditional eggs, bacon and the trimmings, to eggs benedict, to health breakfasts, check it all out on their breakfast menu here (PDF) or here (JPEG).

Their main menu offers pasta, pizza, chicken, fish, burgers and of course a decadent selection of desserts.
Download it here (PDF) or here (JPEG).
While I have not yet had the time to try out all of their menu offerings, everything that I have had was of a consistently high quality.

I trust that you will enjoy the same experience :)

Anything else?

The other great thing here, is the staff. From the managers to the waiters, to the kitchen staff and caregivers for the kids, they all just do what they do, with a big smile on their face.

Just look up on the wall as you walk in, and you will see the quote "Work is love made visible...". Clearly these guys practice what they preach.
Keep up the great work guys!

Across the parking lot there is also an Adventure Golf course - something to help you either work up an appetite, or walk off a meal :)

On weekends when we visited Primi Fusion, there was also a jumping castle inflated in the square in front of the restaurant, and we even saw a few clowns walking around entertaining passers-by - it all made for good fun :)

Final words

Primi Fusion @ Stoneridge Shopping Centre is a great idea if it's mainly great food you're after, but with the knowledge that your little ones will also get some educational fun out of it, and a great kids meal to top it all off.

Sometimes you just want to enjoy great food, but you don't really want to venture out to a kids theme park or a place where kids are just bouncing off the walls (sometimes literally :) - and that's where a place like Primi Fusion fits in perfectly.

Getting in touch

Telephone:
(+27) 11 452 2732

Fax:
(+27) 11 452 2732

Email:
fusion@primi-piatti.com

Website:
http://www.primi-piatti.com

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Mugg & Bean @ Broadacres Lifestyle Centre, Fourways (JHB)

The Mugg & Bean brand can be found all over South Africa - you will spot it in most of the major centres, and with it comes the mark of a good quality meal and great coffee, at an affordable price.
It is not normally the type of establishment that would appear on Plebs with Kids, but this branch is one with a difference.
Read on...

Date last visited

June 2011

Location and Setting

Broadacres Lifestyle Centre is situated on the corner of Cedar and Valley Roads, Broadacres, Fourways, In Johannesburg.
It contains a variety of restaurants, shops and venues, one of which is the Mugg & Bean about which this post is being written.

You can view a map here.

For the kids...

Mugg & Bean is not usually all about the kids.
Sure, the new branch in Harrismith (at the Bergview Engen One-Stop) gives out crayons and drawings for the kids to colour in, but this is not common for the franchise, at least not in my experience.

Mugg & Bean Broadacres though, is totally kid-oriented.
Make your way through the inside area, and beyond lies an idyllic outdoor playground for the little ones.
Taking centre stage is the giant plastic jungle gym, with its twisty slides and giant ball pool.
There is also a really cool riding track that encircles the play area - ideal for kid-racers on plastic ride-on bikes.

Moving to the back of the playground, you will find an old favourite - the ever-popular jumping castle.
If that doesn't do it for the tots, then they can head over to the other side of the playground where there is a huge wooden jungle gym type structure.

Add some animals to this already successful mix, and it's all starting to look like a winner - there are some geese and rabbits who live near the playground in an animal enclosure, and they make for great entertainment for the kid who demands a lot from their Sunday outing :)

As for the kids menu, Mugg & Bean offers a great spread which will likely satisfy even the most fussy eaters - you can view their menu online here.

During our visit, the restaurant was setting up for a kids party in their own private party venue behind the playground - for details about hiring the venue, please contact them directly using the details at the bottom of this post.

Just as you walk out of the Mugg & Bean, be sure not to miss the kids fancy dress costume shop on your right.
Here you can get anything from a kids cowboy outfit to a fairy princess costume - they really do have a lot on offer, so be prepared to spend a good few minutes in there once your little ones realise what a goldmine they have just stumbled upon... :)

For the slightly older kids, there is also an awesome model shop just a few steps away from the Mugg & Bean, offering a wide variety of radio controlled toys.
Aircraft, helicopters, cars... I almost didn't get out of the shop myself... ;)

For the adults...


I tend to think with my stomach before all else - whenever we need a place to go to, I am thinking about the food and coffee offerings before we even set off :)
Mugg & Bean is great because their standards are consistently high - I cannot think of a time when I have had a bad meal at any of their branches, and the Broadacres branch is no exception.

From a great breakfast spread, to a decent menu for lunch and dinner options, to their extensive coffee menu, Mugg & Bean have a wide variety of meals to cater for just about anyone.
If you want to check out the menu right now, you can view it online here.

After a great meal, you can head out of the Mugg & Bean and take a walk around the Lifestyle Centre itself.
Outside you will find a well-stocked nursery, a large indoor Garden Shop (where you can buy gardening equipment, some novel kids outdoor toys, decorations and more) and several other restaurants (one of which also has a very nice kids play area of its own).

Walk a bit further and you will come across the beautifully manicured gardens of Buitengeluk - a traditional Cape Dutch style venue and restaurant - you can view their website here.
The Broadacres Lifestyle Centre also offers convenience, in that you can bring your shopping bags along and stock up on groceries at the Woolworths or Spar in the centre.

Finally, the Barnyard Theatre on the premises offers some evening entertainment options, that is if you still have enough energy after a day out with the kids :)

Anything else?

If you want to get in touch with the actual Lifestyle Centre for more information about the other stores and restaurants onsite, you can call them on (+27) 11 467 2070.
There are also child-minders on the playground, and a baby changing room at the Mugg & Bean - just 2 things less to think about :)

Final words

Sometimes you just want to go somewhere without having to second guess the kind of food you will get, or what condition the kids play area will be in. 
The Mugg & Bean in Broadacres is a great way to do this, with the added benefit of being within the Lifestyle Centre itself.

Getting in touch

Telephone:
(+27) 11 465 0155

Fax:
(+27) 11 465 9223

Website:
http://www.themugg.com

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Circus Allegria review, Park Meadows, Bedfordview (JHB)

This one is a little different from places that would normally appear on Plebs with Kids, but we feel that it deserves a spot here because of the obvious family and fun element that a circus brings with it.

Unfortunately this review comes a bit late, as the Circus Allegria has already moved on to Festival Mall in Kempton Park.
You can still catch up with them there until 22 May 2011.

Date last visited

May 2011

Location and Setting

For the past few months, the large multi-coloured circus big top of the Circus Allegria has dominated the parking lot at the Park Meadows Shopping Centre, opposite Eastgate Mall, in Bedfordview, Johannesburg.

As mentioned above though, that won't really help much as the circus is in Kempton Park now...:)
So if you decide to pay a visit to Circus Allegria, it is now at the following address until 22 May 2011:

Corner CR Swart Drive and Kelvin Street,
Kempton Park, 1619

You can view a map here.
For the kids...

The circus is always a barrel of laughs and all round fun for the kids, and Circus Allegria pretty much brings it all.
From jugglers to clowns with crazy antics, from magic acts that will keep the little ones guessing, to colourful costumes and fire acts that will amaze them - there really is a lot going on here that the kids will get a kick out of.

The important thing to remember though, is that the Circus Allegria prides itself on being "animal-free", so you won't see tigers, monkeys or any other kind of animal live on stage, and knowing how animals in circuses have been treated historically, this is a good thing!
If it's animals that the little ones want to see, rather head on over to the JHB Zoo :)

The cast of the show also make you feel very much at home - upon leaving the tent after the show, all the artistes lined up outside in 2 lines, and you could meet them in person.
This is very cool for the kids (and adults :), and something which you probably wouldn't get at one of the larger international circuses.

For the adults...

Personally I always enjoy a trip to the circus, but maybe I haven't grown up quite enough just yet :)

Watching humans pushing themselves to their physical limits though, in the form of acrobatics, strength acts, contortion and other wow-inducing feats, is something that pretty much everybody can enjoy and appreciate.
I also found myself laughing out loudly at the antics of Macaroni the clown - he is one funny guy, and that Italian accent just adds a whole lot to his already silly character :)

In terms of eats and drinks, this being a circus and all, there is only really a snacks and drinks kiosk onsite where you can grab a quick bite before the show or during the interval.
In the specific case of Park Meadows, there were of course several choices of restaurants in the mall itself where you could get a meal before or after the show.

Anything else?

Ticket prices:

- Ringside seats - R 100 + R 5 booking fee per seat
- Unreserved seats (13+ years old) - R 80 + R 5 booking fee per seat
- Unreserved seats kids (3 - 12 years old) - R 60 + R 5 booking fee per seat

You can book online via the website, or you can book before the show - allow at least half an hour before the show starts though.

Also, bring your camera - Circus Allegria does not mind photography at all.
You can also buy red clown noses and flashing glowsticks for the kids at the circus, just to add to the already festive atmosphere :)

Final words

Circus Allegria is well worth an afternoon outing. It is well-priced, fun for young and old, and it is certainly something quite out of the ordinary. I mean, how often is the circus in town?

Sure you can spend several hundred ZAR per ticket on a large international production, but for the price you pay, Circus Allegria really is great value for money.
It's a fun-filled 2 hour show with a short interval, and you will leave with smiles all round.

Getting in touch

Telephone:
(+27) 0 76 343 3858

Fax:
(+27) 0 86 570 7075

Email:

Website:

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Jingle Jangle Tea Garden review, Moreleta Park (Pretoria)

Credit: Luschka van Onselen
Luschka has been at it again, scouring Pretoria for kid-friendly places where she can get a great coffee at the same time. Thanks Luschka!

Jingle Jangle is my favourite place in Pretoria. It ticks all the boxes I need when we need some time out of the house, it's peaceful and has great coffee.

Date last visited

March 2011

Location and Setting

Jingle Jangle is located in Moreleta Park in Pretoria East. It's accessible from all major routes and pretty easy to find – there's a map here.
Jingle Jangle is set in a large area with beautiful bluegum trees and loads of activities for children. It's a perfect afternoon out, and even on the hottest of days, there's a cool breeze under those trees.

For the kids...

Credit: Luschka van Onselen
For the kids there's a costume shop and a stage for fancy dress – an additional fee applies for this. There are plastic 'motorbikes' and quad bikes (also additionally charged) on the riding circuit for older kids. There's also a play area with two climbing frames, a pole for sliding, a tunnel to climb through, a 'horse' to ride, a sandpit and swings.

Jingle Jangle's play equipment includes a trampoline and a bouncy castle as well as ride on toys such as dinosaurs, a Flintstone-style car and so on.
As with many other places in Pretoria, there's an animal farm, although it's really more of an enclosure than a farm :)

The children's menu has nice foods on it, and their chocolate and vanilla milkshakes are very yummy. 
There are pony-rides on weekends and public holidays too.

For the adults...

I think about Jingle Jangle, and I feel relaxed. 
I'm not kidding...For adults, there's really just the tea room – and if you don't want to be surrounded by children, there's a lovely separate enclosure too. 

I love the outdoors area though. Shaded by bluegum trees, able to keep an eye on the little ones, and have a bite to eat, there's not much missing. 
Credit: Luschka van Onselen
Their fruit juices are fantastic, as is the coffee.

Anything else?

There's plenty of parking and a car guard on duty. 
The toilets are lovely and there's a small baby-change area. You can book the area for private parties, or bring your own cake, but for that there's a 'corkage' fee.

Final words

As I said, I love this place, and it's my favourite in Pretoria. 
It's one of the most relaxing spots I've found and if you visit, you're likely to find me there!

Getting in touch

Address:
Wekker street
Plot 54
Kimiad Estate
Moreleta Park
Pretoria 

Credit: Luschka van Onselen
Telephone:
012 997 0134

Fax:
0866 924 724


Website:

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Papachinos, Crowthorne (JHB)

Once in a while, you come across a venue which really just seems to do all the right things.
If you ever find yourself in the Midrand area and you need just such a place, look no further than Papachinos Continental Cafe in Crowthorne.

Date last visited

January 2011

Location and Setting

Papachinos Crowthorne is situated at 40 Whisken Avenue, Crowthorne, Midrand.
It's slightly outside of Midrand proper, so GPS it if you can, or use this direct link to Google Maps to find it.

For the kids...

Papachinos has one of the most extensive kids play areas that we have yet come across.
It stetches virtually the full length of the property, which means that wherever you are seated, you are never far from a play area.
Now if you are part of my generation (born circa 1980), then you will remember the type of jungle gyms we had back then - large multi-coloured square metal structures which were rather unforgiving on the body, should you ever lose your footing or grip...

They also had a tendency to boil in the sun, which made for a rather unpleasant time if you chose to go down the slide in your shorts...

Thankfully though, this is 2011, technology has advanced, common sense has prevailed and plastic is now the order of the day :)
By plastic, I mean the new generation of jungle gyms that are taking the kiddies world by storm - I mean just take a look at this giant chunk of playtime fun:)



Papachinos Crowthorne has no less than 3 of these, and it makes you want to be a kid all over again!
The ever-present child-minders even have races with the kids down the slides... I am envious!
Speaking of child minders, these are ones that you really don't mind tipping as they do such a great job :)

In the photo above you will also spy a bit of road - there are 2 of these tracks in different areas on the premises, along with a fleet of fancy ride-on bikes for the little tykes to practice their lap times on.

The playground also has some more traditional play equipment - swings, see-saws, ride-on animals (thankfully bolted into the ground, otherwise airborne children and injuries would be plentiful!), and of course the signature Papachinos kiddies-pizza-making facility :)

Here they can sit alongside other kiddies at a kids-height counter, and create their very own pizza from scratch, starting from a pre-cut circle of dough and adding their topping of choice.
Fun and food combined :)

If pizza won't do it for them, then there is a great kiddies menu that will definitely provide enough of a choice to keep those growling little tummies satisfied :)

For the adults...

It really is all about great food at Papachinos - all of the meals that we have had here have been fantastic, from good old pizza, to unique Mediterranean-style wraps, to a great breakfast selection, right down to a comprehensive kiddies menu, Papachinos just do great food.

As already mentioned above, all this great food can be enjoyed safe in the knowledge that the kids are well taken care of and having a ton of fun.

You also have the choice of sitting outside (alongside the play area), or if you prefer there are no less than 3 other areas in which to enjoy your fine dining - an inside area, a bar area and a small outside courtyard just next to the bar.

In our experience, even during a busy Saturday lunch, Papachinos didn't feel quite as chaotic as one may have expected with so many kids running around.
There seems to be an equal emphasis here on keeping the kids happy while still retaining the "come back again soon" factor.

Anything else?

There are dedicated baby-changing facilities on the premises, and high chairs are readily available if the little ones are not yet ready for full-size chairs.
There are also small picnic benches and tables especially for the kids to sit at.

According to their website, there are also safety officers and first aid kits onsite (which we thankfully didn't have to use :).

Booking ahead is highly recommended.
Arriving early enough on a Saturday morning might be ok without a booking, but be advised - this place does fill up quickly.
Parking is plentiful and there are car guards on duty.

Final thoughts

Papachinos Crowthorne is a great all-rounder.
Great food, smiling kids galore, and a venue which really looks out for all of its patrons, young and old.
A winner.

Getting in touch

Telephone:
011 702-1234

Website:
http://www.papachinos.co.za

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Irene Village Mall review, Irene (Pretoria)

Credit: Luschka van Onselen
Credit once again goes to Luschka van Onselen for this review :)

While it might seem strange to review a whole mall, Irene Village Mall is no ordinary mall. 
Apart from its European 'feel' and the pancake stand at the entrance, there's also so much to do, and it is extremely child friendly.

Date last visited


March 2011

Location and Setting

On the corner of Nellmapius Drive & Van Ryneveld Avenue, Irene, Irene Village Mall is another of Pretoria's shopping malls, but it is a mall with a difference. It is one of the few that is truly child friendly and can actually be a fun day out for everyone.

For the kids...

Upon entering the mall through the main entrance, there's a fountain, behind which is a mini maze (about knee high) complete with scarecrows and an upside down cow statue – or rather the udders and legs of the cow. I'm not sure where the rest of it got to!

Credit: Luschka van Onselen
Behind the cow which always has children clambering all around it, is a square surrounded by restaurants and a few benches. In the centre of the square is a very large (54m²) water feature with arches and spouts.
This is the main attraction of Irene Mall. There are always children running around in and out of the water. Some parents actually come there with their children already in costumes or wet suits and the inexperienced just let their children run around in full dress or nappies.

Around the water feature are four restaurants and coffee shops where you can have breakfast, coffee or lunch while the kids play to their heart's content.

Behind the fountains is a display area – last time I went there were vehicles on display, but the time before that there was a whole children's play area complete with trampolines.
On Saturdays there is a train that drives up and down the strip-mall layout of the rest of the mall.
R15 per person per ride - it's great fun for the children.

There's also a toyshop which sells both Lego and Duplo, and there are three 'scratch-patch' tables where children can play and build and have fun.
If all of that is not enough, there are also ride-on toys dotted around the centre.

For the adults...

Credit: Luschka van Onselen
Well, it is a mall. It has general shopping such as Woolworths and Pick 'n Pay, and it has boutique shops, a baby boutique and so on.
There are plenty restaurants and a Ster Kinekor movie theatre.

What makes Irene Village Mall feel so European is the hand-cut mosaic artwork that decorates the entrances, drinking fountains and water features.
There's a bell tower too, and the statues you'll find on your wanderings definitely add to the ambiance.
Two men staring at each other in the style of “The Thinker”, and large deformed horses (which also have a seat area which little ones can 'ride' on – with supervision though – the tall one is very high!)

Anything else?

Parking is reasonable – your first hour is free, second hour is R5.

If you go on a Saturday, Karoo (first on the left of the fountains) has a fantastic breakfast buffet for R69.00 including such items as biltong and beer bread, more than 10 meat dishes, vetkoek, pumpkin fritters and loads more. It's a highly recommended breakfast, and they serve from 9am.
The toilets are very nicely done up, and clean, but I didn't see a baby change – although there's ample room in the bathroom.

There might not be much for parents to do in the Lego shop, but watching the little ones entertain themselves is good enough for me.

Getting in touch

Detailed directions can be found here.

GPS:
S 25 ° 51 . 683 '
E 28 ° 15 . 044 '

Tel:
(012) 662 4446

Fax:
(012) 662 0719

Email:
Martilize Ochse - martilize@mseed.co.za

Website:
http://www.irenemall.co.za/

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Kids Castle Animal Farm and Playground review, Die Wilgers (Pretoria)

Credit: Luschka van Onselen
Luschka van Onselen has been very busy in and around Pretoria - here is her next contribution - thanks Luschka!

The urban farm is definitely the 'thing to do' in Pretoria, and Kids Castle Animal Farm and Playground is another option if you're looking for somewhere to go. 
Kids castle has a playground and farm, and is a party venue for children.

Date Last Visited

March 2011

Location and Setting

Located behind the Grove Mall just off Lynwood Road or off Simon Vermooten if you're coming on the N4, Kids Castle Animal Farm and Playground is at 21 Farm Road. 
It was actually remarkably easy to find, armed with just those two street names.

You arrive in a sand car park, and being the only people there, we found ample parking (plenty of which is in the shade). 
There's a restaurant to your right (which wasn't open during the day) and a nursery school, which also didn't seem to be open. Ahead is the 'farm' part and to the left is the reception for the large play park and entrance to the farm.

A map is available here.

For the kids...

Honestly, it's all about the kids. The playground has three large climb frames, a 'tractor', sand pit, various swings and slides, a roundabout swing thing and a trampoline. 
The biggest problem we found was that everything was in the sun and scorchingly hot. We were able to play on some of the equipment, but a few trees around the play area would not hurt.
There are separate party areas so that two parties can be held at the same time.
Credit: Luschka van Onselen

Upon arrival we were given animal food – cabbage for the goats, sheep and rabbits and corn for the chickens, geese, ducks and random other fowl. As we approached they rushed to the fence, and my daughter loved it. 
The goats were the keenest for food and were remarkably gentle in taking it from my 17 month old.

For parties there is also a jumping castle, tractor rides and donkey rides, and the package (R700 for three hours venue hire, R50 per child and R25 per adult) includes party packs and entertainment.






For the adults...

There's not a huge amount for adults, other than playing with your little ones, which is probably the point. There's not a lot of shade, but saying that, as the only people there on the day, we were fine. 
You can buy a small selection of soft-drinks from their shop. I paid R10 for a Fanta Grape.

Anything else?

Dawie, one of the owners was very friendly and informative. He told us details about the animals and wasn't shy of spending a bit of time making sure we were looked after.

The only real downside of Kids Castle is the toilets. There's no baby change facility, which in a place catering for children is a little strange, and there were hundreds of mosquitoes. 
Hopefully management have taken note of this and will improve the facilities in the near future.

I think it would be a great place for a birthday party or to go with friends. Mums and Dads can sit and chat while the kids run themselves ragged and entertain themselves with the animals.
Day visitors are welcome – i.e. you don't have to be part of a party, and adults will pay R15, while children are R25.

With a toddler on my own it was good for about two hours, but with older children or a group, and a few snacks, it could easily be a whole day out.
Credit: Luschka van Onselen

Getting in touch 

Website
http://www.kidscastle.co.za

Telephone
Dawie 0828046979
Marika 0837701786
Tel: (012) 8070688

Address
Plot 21
Farm Road Off Simon Vermooten
Die Wilgers
Pretoria

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Safari Garden Centre review, The Willows (Pretoria East)


Credit: Luschka van Onselen
Thank you again to Luschka van Onselen for this, her latest contribution to Plebs with Kids - keep 'em coming!

I'm not sure if it's all over South Africa, or just in Pretoria, but Garden Centres are glorified playgrounds that sell a few garden essentials on the side. 
Honestly, I've seen garden centres all over the world, and none of them hold a candle to the ones here, and in the garden centre league, Safari is my personal first place title holder.

Location and Setting

On Lynwood Road, Pretoria, Safari Garden Centre lies on the T-Junction of Lynnwood and Rubida Street, The Willows (Pretoria East) and it is pretty impossible to miss.

From the road it looks like your average garden centre. 
Parking is plentiful, free, and there's a car guard on duty.

You can find directions here.

For the kids....

Credit: Luschka van Onselen
Walk through the garden centre and you're faced with a world you didn't know was there from the road. Passing by all the plant centre things, you find a wonderland for children.
There are pony rides and a train ride on weekends and public holidays.
There's a jumping castle, and a walk in aviary / animal farm, which houses bot belly pigs, chickens, rabbits, a few goats and more varieties of farm birds.
There are also marmoset monkeys, dwarf mountain goats and rabbits.

In the centre of all this is a playground with slides and climb frames. Really, its a child's paradise.
There are also many water features, water falls, fish and a rickety looking bridge over the water, something my daughter was fascinated by.

There are ride-on machines and a large elephant for looking at, and there's plenty of opportunity for walking around, exploring and playing imaginative games.

Credit: www.safarigardencentre.com
For the adults...

There are different 'plant' sections – rose, cacti, herbs, herbaceous and indoor are only a few- and a water feature area with everything from little fountains to a roaring waterfall. 
There are also plenty of opportunities to walk around daydreaming about your ideal garden.

The key to any good child's place for me, is a decent cup of coffee, and the restaurant here serves that, no doubt. There's a full restaurant, a bar, a chapel and various function rooms.  
Outdoors there's a function area with a huge bonfire. The restaurant also stretches all the way to the play area, so you can keep an eye on the children while enjoying lunch or a drink.






Anything else?

Although the Safari Garden Centre is open till 17.30, the aviary is locked around 16.30, and the restaurant stops serving around the same time.

There is no entrance fee for any part of Safari, and only the rides and ride-on toys will cost you any money – and of course anything you purchase from the restaurant.

Credit: www.safarigardencentre.com
Final thoughts

The Safari Garden Centre is a free, fun-filled afternoon. There is so much to see that it caters for all ages, and it's hard to believe that beyond the King Kong - like walls, there's a whole bustling city.  
It's one of my favourite places in Pretoria, and I strongly recommend it for a visit.

Contact information

Telephone:
012 807-0009

Fax:
0866 800 772

Physical Address:
Credit: www.safarigardencentre.com
C/o Lynnwood Road and Rubida Street
The Willows
Pretoria East

Business Hours:
Monday to Saturday: 08:00 - 17:30
Sunday and Public Holidays: 09:00 - 17:30

Email:




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About Plebs with Kids

Plebs with Kids visits mainly JHB-based venues, coffee shops, restaurants, play areas and other such establishments.

We rate their kid-friendliness (among other things :) for your convenience, and for the next time you need a place to go, while knowing that your little ones are well catered for.

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